Ariz. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in critical condition after Tucson shooting; eight others injured

Jan 8, 2011

Arizona Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot and critically wounded Saturday morning while hosting an event outside a Tucson grocery store, according to local news reports, a tragic turn of events after an unusually heated campaign season.

President Obama said in a statement that some people had died in the shooting, and that Giffords was "gravely wounded."

C.J. Karamargin, Giffords' spokesman, told the Washington Post on Saturday afternoon that Giffords was in surgery. Earlier in the afternoon, CNN and NPR reported that she had died.

Giffords, who in November narrowly won reelection to a third term, was hosting her first "Congress on Your Corner" event when a gunman ran up and began shooting her and others in her entourage with a Glock handgun, according to law enforcement sources. The gunman is in custody.

According to a local news report, Giffords was shot in the head at point-blank range. She was taken to University Medical Center in Tucson, but was reported to have been responsive immediately after the shooting. A hospital spokesperson told CNN that nine people had arrived and that all were in critical or serious condition, including a child.

"We do not yet have all the answers. What we do know is that such a senseless and terrible act of violence has no place in a free society," Obama said. "I ask all Americans to join me and Michelle in keeping Representative Giffords, the victims of this tragedy, and their families in our prayers."

Last March, Giffords was one of ten House Democrats who were the subject of harassment over their support for the national health care overhaul. At the time, the front door of Giffords' Tucson office had been shattered in an early morning incident.

Giffords had been a top target by Republicans in the 2010 midterm elections, but managed to win a tough re-election battle against a tea party candidate.

The up-and-coming lawmaker, known as a moderate Democrat who paid close attention to constituent concerns, had been singled out by Sarah Palin's SarahPac as one of the 20 Democrats on the ballot in November who represented states that supported Sen. John McCain for president in 2008. "It's time to take a stand," Palin's fundraising appeal said of Giffords and the other Democrats, who had all supported the health-care bill.

House Speaker John Boehner (R.Ohio) put out a statement saying: "I am horrified by the senseless attack on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords... An attack on one who serves is an attack on all who serve. Acts and threats of violence against public officials have no place in our society."

NPR reported that Giffords was talking to a couple outside of a local Safeway when the suspect ran up and fired indiscriminately from about four feet away. The man, described by witnesses as in his late teens or early 20s, was tackled when he tried to flee the scene. Police confirmed that a young man was in custody in connection with the shooting.

The "Congress on Your Corner" program was popular among Democrats elected in recent years from swing districts, as a way of keeping in regular contact with local concerns. The event was the first of Giffords' third term; she took the oath of office for the 112th Congress on Tuesday.

Arizona has been a political hotbed in recent months, especially after the state approved last April restrictive immigration laws that became a conservative rallying cry.

Giffords is a member of the House Blue Dog Democrat coalition, a bloc of moderate and conservative Democrats whose ranks were ravaged by losses in November. Her husband is astronaut Mark E. Kelly.

Her 8th congressional district borders Mexico, and Giffords was judicious in her response to the Arizona immigration law, describing it as a "clear calling that the federal government needs to do a better job."

This was not the first time someone brought a gun to a Giffords event. A protester protester in August brought a gun to Giffords' Congress on Your Corner event in Douglas. Police were alerted after he dropped the firearm.

"When you represent a district that includes the home of the O.K. Corral and Tombstone, 'the Town Too Tough to Die,' nothing's a surprise out in Cochise County," Giffords, D-Ariz., said Tuesday in an interview with The Arizona Republic Editorial Board.

The man in question shouted "some pretty disparaging comments," Giffords said, but "at no point did I ever feel in danger and at no point did I ever feel there was a problem."

Giffords is a former Arizona state senate and house member who had previously served as president of a tire company founded by her father. She was a top recruit in 2006 by Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Rahm Emanuel, viewed as the type of young, middle-of-the-road candidate with crossover appeal. She is a Spanish speaker whose hobbies include motorcycle racing.

Giffords beat a crowded Democratic primary field in 2006, and won 54 percent of the vote in the general election against immigration opponent Randy Graf, to succeed retiring Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.). She easily won re-election in 2008.

But the immigration debate sparked by the legal crackdown in her home state became a defining issue in Giffords' campaign last year. She denounced the law as "extreme" and has supported legislation to provide a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrations. But she supported a Republican effort to add National Guard troops along the border, and opposed a crusade led by her homestate colleague Rep. Raul Grijalva (D) to boycott Arizona businesses, in protest of the state law.



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